Writers Talk — interview with Mandy Hager

Posted on Apr 30, 2013 | Comments Off on Writers Talk — interview with Mandy Hager

mandy author photo jan 2012

 Mandy Hager — award-winning writer, currently finalist in 2013 NZ Post Young Adult Book Award with her novel, The Nature of Ash.  See more about Mandy and her other works plus her blogs about writing at http://mandyhager.blogspot.co.nz

 I first got to know Mandy by reading her book, Run for the Trees, and loved it.  Have read all her works since.  She writes mainly for the Young Adult reader which means everyone of any age and her soon-to-be-published new novel, is called Dear Vincent.  I can hardly wait.

My questions to Mandy circled around Story, Planning, Rituals, Rejection, Success


Often it is an idea or theme – and frequently something that has made me angry!  It poses a question and forces me to think about how would be best to reveal all the issues involved – then who would be the best person to tell this story? Once this is decided, I wait for that character to start speaking to me inside my head. If this happens then I know it’s a story I want to pursue.

Occasionally, as with the story I’m starting now, the character starts speaking first and I have to figure out what the hell it’s going on about!


Yes, I do plan — always want to know how it ends (roughly) before I start — because I’m interested in the themes and ideas I like to know clearly what it is I’m trying to say (though this often expands and changes slightly as I write.) I decide point of view and structure and then rough chapter outlines — knowing they will change slightly as I write but in order to maintain the different threads I’m trying to weave through I need to keep an eye on how each thread moves through the story and ties up (or not) at the end. Then I start working on tone and voice — only really settling into the hard slog of daily writing once these are working for me (usually means the first chapter or so). I like to give plenty of time for the ideas to run around inside me before I write – letting my subconscious do a lot of the hard work first!


Yes, I do have rituals. I always sit down early and deal with emails and twitter etc first. Then, when I’m ready to write I put in the edits I’ve discovered from the read-over the night before, which gets my mind back into the story — then, when I’m ready for new writing, I close my eyes and clear my mind – and ask my ancestors for help (I know, sounds weird, but it’s nice to think I’m not here doing it on my own!)

Rejection — how do you handle it?

Tears first. Lots of beating myself up. Depending on the size of the rejection a day or two of sulking and lots of declaring I’m never going to write again! But, these days, I am able to pull myself out of it a little more easily and quickly. I remind myself that writing is a priviledge and an indulgence — and that what really matters is the love, health and safety of my family — this always pulls me up and off I go again!

Success — first one — where were you?

I was at home, knee deep in small children and mess. Couldn’t believe it! Think I danced around the room!